ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Omer Tips For Surviving Isolation

We are nearly six weeks into this period of isolation due to the COVID-19 situation. While talk of “opening up” is beginning, it will still be a while until that opening up is at full throttle, and even then there will still be a lot of “staying at home” compared to what was BC (before Coronavirus).

Staying at home together with your family members can either foster an enhanced closeness, or it can result in a lot of frustration and getting on each other’s nerves. (Those two are not mutually exclusive, and can even happen during the same day, or even the same hour…) I would like to share a lesson from the Omer period that we can apply to help us in this area of life as we now know it.

Rabbi Akiva had 24,000 students. They were the brightest scholars of the Jewish world after the fall of the second Temple. One year, between Pesach and Shavuot, all but five of them died in a plague. The Talmud relates, that the plague got to them because they did not demonstrate proper respect for each other. Now, one of the pillars of Rabbi Akiva’s Torah teaching was, “love your fellow as yourself – this is a fundamental principle of the Torah.” How could his own students have been so deaf to his message? Were they so hypocritical that they did not practice what their teacher constantly preached?

One of the explanations is, that it was actually their love for each other, inspired by Rabbi Akiva’s teaching, which led them to disrespect one another. Being different people, each student absorbed and applied Rabbi Akiva’s teaching in his own manner. Often their respective interpretations were at odds with each other. Each one could not stand to see his colleague, who he loved, understand and implement the lessons of Rabbi Akiva in a way that he thought erroneous.   

Our takeaway from this is that in a relationship we need both love and respect. Love alone can be suffocating. Respect affords the other person their sense of self. Respect alone can be cold and indifferent. Love provides the warmth and caring. When we have a balance of both, that makes for a happy place.

Isolated with our family and loved ones, we must remember to have both love and respect. When we do, there will be more happy days than frustrating ones.

May we merit very soon to experience the end of this pandemic and all that comes with it. Not to return to the old normal, but rather to a new normal – the normal of redemption through the coming of Moshiach!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

The 9th Day of Passover

We were strong, we were strong, and we were strengthened. We did it. The Jewish people got through a Pesach under some of the strangest of circumstances. I am especially proud of those of you who managed even while alone for the first time on Pesach. These anti-bodies will strengthen us even more!

In many Haggadahs, after the declaration “Next Year in Jerusalem,” there is a passage to the effect of “this concludes the Passover Seder, may we merit to celebrate again in years to come.” However, in the Chabad edition of the Haggadah, this passage is omitted. Why? Because from the standpoint of Chassidic thought, the spirit of Passover must live on. The message of freedom and liberation must continue to resonate with us. The Passover Seder does not come to an end, it is actually a spring board for a new beginning.

This year more than ever we must tap into this idea. We need to draw inspiration and strength from our Coronavirus Passover experience to get us through the rest of this uncertainty.

So on this 9th day of Passover, I wish you continued inner freedom along with the fortitude to soldier on as we push on toward the goal of complete salvation and healing for all through the coming of Moshiach!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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